Nearly 15 years ago, Google first introduced the nofollow feature to help fight spam in comments. This soon became one of Google’s best practices for marking sponsored links.

New features:

  • rel = “sponsored”: a mark for links created as part of an advertisement, collaboration or similar agreements.
  • rel = “ugc”: marking up users-generated content on the site, such as forum comments and posts.
  • rel = “nofollow”: The nofollow check still exists after the update. This feature should be used in case you want to link to a page, without releasing “Juice” or implying any type of approval.

When can we start using the new features? Now. All new features can be used immediately.

However, on March 1, 2020, another change is planned that its impact on search results is difficult to expect at this point: Google plans to start referring to nofollow as a recommendation only. This means that if nofollow has so far been used to prevent Google from indexing the linked page (a practice that actually worked, but was not highly recommended by Google), then as of March 1, 2020, the page will probably be crawled. Google is going to refer to the nofollow recommendation as a hint of page quality and content, but not as a guide not to follow and index it.

What does this mean for link building?

So far, Google’s official guidelines stated that any link built to improve rankings intentionally is prohibited, unless it is marked with nofollow. In practice, mainly sites that has made excessive use (black SEO) in such links were penalized.

It appears that now, links marked with one of the new tags, (and starting next year – links marked with nofollow) will have some SEO effect. The big news is that these links can be created according to Google’s guidelines without causing a penalty.

Will this make link building less artificial? It’s hard to know. The amount of effort SEO companies put into link building is significant and it is unclear how many will be willing to invest all these efforts in building links which may or may not work (pass juice). On the other hand, a link building campaign that includes nofollow links is more versatile, and is considered by many to be of a higher standard.

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